All trainee teachers should be compelled to teach pupils with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before qualifying, an academic recommends.
ADHD is believed to affect between 3 and 7 per cent of schoolchildren of both sexes. It is most commonly diagnosed around the age of five.
But Julie Kos, who surveyed teachers about the condition on behalf of the Australian Council for Educational Research, found that most believed job pressures prevented them from providing sufficient support for ADHD pupils.
Dr Kos will present her paper today at the British Educational Research Association conference in Edinburgh. More than 80 per cent of the 120 teachers she interviewed for the survey had worked with pupils with ADHD at some point, 62 per cent within the last year
However, most teachers said they were unable to provide properly for these pupils. "Time is always the enemy," said one respondent.
Many were concerned that spending time with problematic pupils would mean neglecting others. One teacher said: "It's not fair on those children who may need some of my time but who don't exhibit inappropriate behaviours."
Andrea Bilbow, founder of charity the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, says this is unacceptable. "A support worker should be keeping the ADHD children on task. With proper help, teachers should have enough time for everyone."
Teachers also complained that parental interference hampered their efforts to implement strategies. While some bemoaned parents' lack of involvement, others criticised those parents who refuse to acknowledge their child's problem, instead insisting that they work at the same level as other children.
Ms Bilbow said: "These pupils get into trouble because of the rigidity of schools' behaviour policies. Applying these to ADHD children can worsen the problem."
Dr Kos points out that teachers who have experience of ADHD pupils are, unsurprisingly, significantly better at managing them. She suggested universities should develop and implement core ADHD-specific units for trainees.
"It is also recommended that trainee teachers be exposed to pupils with ADHD during their placements to maximise chances for gaining experience," she said.
However, Beverley Walters, of the National Association for Special Educational Needs, believes these suggestions don't go far enough. "Teachers must be able to recognise the issues before working with a child with ADHD," she said.
"We would advocate training all teachers to work with special needs children in general."